Tag Archives: Port Fairy

In The News – June 1, 1928

For those of you who have not visited the south-west of Victoria, the following article gives a wonderful description from Camperdown through to Port Fairy.   Published on June 1, 1928 in the Hurstbridge  Advertiser, the correspondent, “Mernda”  journeys by bus to Port Fairy.  There are descriptions of some of the towns and their industries as well as the volcanic countryside.

The former Bank of Australasia is a highlight for “Mernda” in Port Fairy.  To see this building today, follow the link http://www.onmydoorstep.com.au/heritage-listing/4153/former-bank-of-australasia

Of interest is the Glaxo works in Port Fairy, considered by “Mernda” as a “great success”.  Glaxo produced high quantities of milk powder, from milk sourced from the local area.  In the 1940s, the company name changed to Glaxo Laboratories and still exists today in Port Fairy as GlaxoSmithKline.

Nestle at Dennington, just outside Warrnambool, was another milk powder manufacturer that caught “Mernda”‘s eye.  Nestle operated from 1911 until 2005 when Fonterra bought the factory.  To read a history of the Nestle factory at Dennington, follow the link http://www.standard.net.au/news/local/news/general/flavours-of-switzerland-linger-a-century-on/2073943.aspx?storypage=1

MY TRIP TO THE WESTERN DISTRICT. (1928, June 1). Advertiser (Hurstbridge, Vic. : 1922 – 1939), p. 4 Edition: AFTERNOON.. Retrieved May 31, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article57757397


New Year’s Day in the Western District

Less than a week on from Boxing Day, a popular day on the calendar for sports and racing, the Western District pioneers were back at it on New Year’s Day.  Most towns had a sports carnival or race meeting or both and the townsfolk flocked to them.

The Turf Inn, just north of Ballarat, had a busy day on New Year’s Day 1858 with sports and pony races held in the vicinity.

THE TURF INN. (1858, January 2). The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), p. 3. Retrieved December 29, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66045904

At Warrnambool, New Year’s Day 1859 was celebrated with games on Flagstaff Hill, including rounders.  A game of shinty, a Scottish game like hockey, was also enjoyed.

DOMESTIC INTELLIGENCE. (1859, January 3). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 - 1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved December 29, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64509933

The Caledonian games were a popular New Years Day outing for the people of Ballarat in 1861.  I can relate to the poor shop assistants watching the passing parade of happy people enjoying the public holiday.  I have worked more public holidays than I care to remember, in fact I am working today.  I must say while it is annoying at times, I don’t find myself  thinking as the 1860s employees did “wishing all manner of ills to the exacting master whose behests precluded them from mixing in the throng of light hearts and merry faces that swept past the doors…”

NEW YEAR'S DAY. (1861, January 2). The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), p. 2. Retrieved December 30, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66336603

Smythesdale, just out of Ballarat, managed to attract three to four hundred people to their sports day in 1862, despite many other activities threatening to draw people away.  Some of the more interesting sports were catching the pig with the greasy tail and treacle and bread eating competitions.

SMYTHESDALE. (1862, January 3). The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), p. 2. Retrieved December 30, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66330531

At Digby in 1863, the local school children held their annual festival and indulged in many cakes and other sweet treats.

DIGBY. (1863, January 6). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 - 1876), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved December 30, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64627825

I could not imagine a government today, state or federal, holding an election between Christmas and New Year.  On December 30, 1865, a general election was held in Victoria, but the timing was not tactical, but due to the dissolution of the fourth government of Victoria on December 11.  New Year’s Day 1866 was spent enjoying the local cricket match and waiting for election results.

NEW YEAR'S DAY. (1866, January 4). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 - 1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved December 30, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64635496

The church bells rang out over Portland at midnight on New Year’s eve 1866, with local boys out on the streets singing “Old John Brown”.  The first day of the new year was hot and outdoor activities were again popular.

NEW YEAR'S DAY. (1867, January 3). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 - 1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved December 30, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article6463696

In 1869, New Year’s Day saw al fresco dining at Bridgewater and Narrawong.  The correspondent reported he had not seen so many picnics on one day, including one held for the Baptist Sunday school children and a large gathering at Mr Henty’s paddock.

THE NEW YEAR. (1869, January 4). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 - 1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENINGS. Retrieved December 30, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64691465

The Australian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil ran a picture of Portarlington on New Years Day, 1879.

(1879, January 18). The Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil (Melbourne, Vic. : 1873 - 1889), p. 172. Retrieved December 30, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page5739740

Finally an article from Port Fairy, a popular holiday place then and now for people of the Western District and a place I have celebrated New Year’s Eve on several occasions.  In 1927, visitors to the town had swelled, including a party of several hundred Koroit residents on their annual excursion.  Beaches, fishing, cricket and boat trips to Julia Percy Island kept the holiday makers entertained.

HOLIDAY RESORTS. (1927, January 8). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 23. Retrieved December 30, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3831051

Happy New Year!

Not Such an Odd Fellow

George Hall Harman, born in Melbourn, Cambridgeshire in 1835, was the fifth child of Joseph Harman and Sarah Mulbury.  His middle name “Hall”  came from the maiden name of his paternal grandmother, Keiza Hall.  The 1851 English Census shows 16 year old George working as an errand boy and living at the home of  local publican and farmer, William Dearman.  The following year he saw his older brother James leave for Australia and two years later in 1854, he had his own opportunity to travel to Australia.  With his two younger brothers, Jonathan and Reuben, they boarded the “Kate” at Southampton on August 3, 1854 bound for Sydney, arriving on November 7.

I lose track of George for several years until 1859 when he and  brother James advertised land for sale, Boodcarra Farm at Port Fairy, then known as Belfast. The advertisement is listed in the Port Fairy/Belfast News Index 1859 .  In 1860, George married Rebecca Graham, the daughter of  Thomas Graham and Margaret Paterson.

Compared to his brothers, George & Rebecca had a relatively small family of five children:

Walter Graham – Birth: 1862 in Port Fairy; Marriage:  1887 to Ann GRAY; Death: 1930 in Kyneton, Victoria.

Edith – Birth: 1865 in Byaduk;  Death: 1866 in Byaduk

Thomas Charles – Birth: 1867 in Port Fairy; Marriage:  1900 to Elizabeth Margaret BUDGE; Death: 1954 in Victoria

Mary Helena – Birth: 1870 in Port Fairy; Marriage:  1911 to Samuel ROGERS;  Death: 1920 in Sale, Victoria

Herbert George – Birth: 1878 in Port Fairy; Marriage: 1905 to Aimee Elizabeth HEAD; Death: 1955 in Wangaratta, Victoria

George and Rebecca began their married life in Port Fairy but moved to Byaduk with the other members of the Harman family around 1863.  It appears that George preferred the seaside town and they returned to Port Fairy by 1867.

On a visit to Port Fairy, I called in at the Port Fairy Historical Society in the town’s former Court House.   I noticed old portraits on a wall.  Amongst the faces were George and Rebecca Harman.  The Society have a copying service and I was able to arrange for copies to be sent.

George Hall HARMAN, Original held by Port Fairy Historical Society

Rebecca GRAHAM, Original held by Port Fairy Historical Society
















From the photo of George it is obvious he was a Mason.  Turning to Trove, I was able to establish George was a member of the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Odd Fellows(M.U.I.O.O.F.).  I also found a lead to the possible origin of George’s photograph:

(1907, June 24). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved November 9, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page6026342

After Rebecca’s death in 1902, George remained in Port Fairy living in James, Gipps and Sackville Streets.   His occupation varied from “gardener” to “independent means”.  He also spent time with his family as the 1914 Australian Electoral Roll shows, with him residing at the home of his daughter Mary and her husband Samuel Rogers in Wodonga.  He also spent time with his son, Herbert in Wangaratta as this article about the Wangaratta Odd Fellows Lodge in The Argus suggests:

COUNTRY NEWS. (1923, August 29). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 23. Retrieved November 9, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2007613

George passed away on September 14, 1931 at the ripe old age of 96.  Only two of his children, Thomas and Herbert,  were living at the time of his death.

Family Notices. (1931, September 16). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 1. Retrieved November 9, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4411246

George was buried at the Port Fairy Cemetery with Rebecca and baby Edith.

Grave of George, Rebecca and Edith Harman, Port Fairy Cemetery

Headstone of George, Rebecca and Edith Harman, Port Fairy Cemetery















I often think of George and the 29 years after Rebecca’s death until his own.  He saw the passing of his daughter and son and two granddaughters.  Was it a lonely time or did his activities with the Odd Fellows and the visits to the homes of family members fill the void?  I hope so, because George was just a normal fellow who happened to be an Odd Fellow.

In Search of the Extraordinary Monster

The cold snap this week has given me a chance to revisit the book by James Bonwick Western Victoria, It’s Geography, Geology and Social Conditions: The Narrative of an Educational Tour in 1857 .  Although I have read the book several times, I still enjoy flicking through to my favourite parts.  One of those is the description of the Belfast (Port Fairy) Methodist Church

“…this building has come in for it’s share of carvings, in the shape of wreaths, flowers, vases, etc.  There is John Wesley’s benignant countenance regarding his incoming followers, and  a noble shell expands over the front doorway.  An extraordinary monster is beheld crouching beneath the shell.  What he is, and what he does there, is a solemn mystery, known only to the artist.  Guesses as to character and description seem to run into one line, that it (is) neither more no less than the representation of the Arch One, who certainly looks uncomfortable with the shell and John Wesley over his head.   The mason may have intended it to exorcise the neighborhood, or to terrify little children into good behavior at chapel” (p84)

When I first read this book I penciled in a visit to the church when next in Port Fairy.  The fishing port town of Port Fairy is one of my favourite places in Victoria and is a summer playground for many in the Western District.  I  didn’t know on my many visits to Port Fairy in the 1980s, that I had a link with the town.  The Harman family had lived there in the 1850s and as Wesleyan Methodists would have no doubt attended sermons in the church.

While spending a few days there a couple of years ago, my small research assistant and I, walked to the church.    I was keen to see the carvings as described by Bonwick and I was pleased to see they lived up to his description. 

It is a little difficult to make out in the photo, but the “extraordinary monster” is in the bottom centre of the shell, its mouth is most easily seen.  John Wesley is depicted in the stone above the shell.  The carving directly above the door cannot be clearly seen here.   Wire netting has been placed over the carvings in attempt to protect them.

We were lucky enough to run into a church volunteer doing  repairs and he allowed us to go inside the church.  The interior is still in its original condition.  I allowed myself to imagine the sermons of the 19th century with a  preacher placing the fear of God into his parishioners with talk of fire and brimstone.

  The church was new when Bonwick visited.   On September 5, 1855, The Argus ran an article from the Belfast Gazette.  It was reporting the laying of the foundation stone for the Wesleyan church on August 21.  Many townspeople gathered for the occasion, with the Reverend Hart beginning proceedings with prayer, scripture reading and song.  The ceremony then proceeded to a laying of a time capsule.  This honour was given to William Witton a long-term resident of the colony.  Witton was about 45 at the time and had been a builder in Melbourne before taking up the life of a grazier in the Western District.  His obituary credits him as the builder of the first Melbourne offices of the Bank of Australasia and for being one of the driving forces behind the foundation of Wesleyan churches throughout the colony.   

According to the Gazette, a bottle containing “the  Belfast Gazette and Banner of the week, and an inscription, of which the following is a copy :   “The foundation stone of James street Wesleyan Church, Belfast, laid by William Witton, Esq., on Tuesday, August 21,1855. Minister, Rev. R. Hart; chairman of the district, Rev. D. J. Draper; president of the Conference; Rev. W. B. Boyce: building committee, Messrs. Tillotson, McMahon, Bellett, Cole, and Scott; treasurer, W. W. Watson, Esq. ; secretary, W. N. Hosking, Esq. ; contractors, Messrs. Barnes, McGut, and Trevaskis.”  I thought it was unusual that local sculptor Walter McGill was not mentioned among the contractors, but I now believe that Mr McGut is in fact Mr McGill.  McGill was an interesting character who was not only a sculptor and stone mason but also a phrenologist and has been credited for making the death mask of Captain Moonlight.

Next time I visit the church I am going to look for the foundation stone, and hopefully get some better photos!  The church is now classified by the National Trust, who describe it as “one of Port Fairy’s finest buildings”.  I would have to agree with them.

ENDNOTE:  My small research assistant, now seven, has since resigned from his position.

The “Duke of Richmond”

On October 20, 1852, the barque “Duke of Richmond” sailed from Birkenhead, England bound for Portland Bay, Victoria, Australia.  Among the 236 passengers on board were two couples, each from different parts of England and one with small children.  They were my great, great, great grandparents James and Susan Harman and William and Margaret Diwell.  William and Margaret, from Kent had two daughters under five.  Another daughter had passed away before the journey.  James and Susan were from Cambridgeshire and been married only two months.

After around 140 days, Captain Thomas Barclay sailed the “Duke of Richmond” into Portland Bay on March 4, 1853.  The Portland Herald reported on March 11, 1853, that Captain Barclay and Dr Webbers, the Surgeon Superintendent, had attempted to make sure all immigrants were comfortable and happy in an almost competitive way.  However the voyage was also reported as arduous with much illness and over 20 deaths.  Measles claimed many of those that died.

The Diwell family disembarked and stayed in Portland  for another five years before moving to the Casterton area.  William was a bricklayer and left the ship on his own account.  James Harman was to be engaged by a Mr Robertson of Port Fairy for six months with wages of £50.

It is doubtful the two families came together again until 1945 when my grandparents, William Gamble and Linda Hadden were married in Hamilton.

I have done some extra research on the other passengers aboard the “Duke of Richmond“.  A number moved to the Byaduk area.  Some of the family names include Clarke, Everett, Gibbons, Looker, McIntyre, Merry, Patman and Spong.  There were several families from Cambridgeshire.  If anyone had family on the “Duke of Richmond“, it would be great to hear from you.

A full list of the passengers can be seen at the Public Record of Victoria (PROV) Index to Assisted British Immigrants 1839-1871.


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